[1 of only 30 copies] London: David Nutt, 1892. Original boards covered with parchment paper, lettered on the spine in gilt.
First Collected Edition, of which this is one of 30 copies on Japan vellum paper, numbered and signed by the publisher (this being #24). There were also 100 numbered copies on Dutch handmade paper, plus a general issue of 1,000 copies (-- thus, in all, 1,130 copies).
"Deacon Brodie, or the Double Life," is the strange tale of an actual Edinburgh citizen who had been a sober cabinetmaker by day and a mastermind burglar by night -- a subject that had fascinated RLS ever since, as a child, he had discovered that the chest of drawers in his room had been built by that criminal. The fact that he is writing about a person's "double life" has led many to hail "Deacon Brodie" as a precursor to DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE.
According to Stevenson he first wrote "this sort of hugger-mugger melodrama" when he was only 19, in 1869; it was in 1878-1880 that his friend W. E. Henley "fished it out of him." Their first collaboration on this resulted in an 1880 (unpublished) printing of DEACON BRODIE, "in four acts and ten tableaux"; the play was produced a few times, unsuccessfully, but was never published in this form. Over the next eight years (during which time JEKYLL AND HYDE came out), Stevenson and Henley reworked the drama, and it was again printed (but not actually published) in 1888, as a melodrama "in five acts and eight tableaux" (and with the authors' names reversed into Henley's favor). "Deacon Brodie" was not actually published (made available to the general public) until its inclusion here in THREE PLAYS.
For such a special limited edition (only 30 copies), it is unfortunate that the publisher chose such a delicate, soil-prone binding -- as we have never seen anuything approaching a fine copy. This copy is very good, with substantial darkening of the spine and with some light chipping of the paper at the head; the leaves of "Beau Austin" and of "Admiral Guinea" remain unopened. Beinecke 573; Princeton 52B. Provenance: bookplate of the noted collector George Barr McCutcheon -- who usually insisted on fine condition but who evidently made an exception for this edition. Item #13771